Pruning Peach trees

On Monday we looked at general points about pruning fruit trees.
According to Keith Kirsten, “It is important to prune deciduous trees (peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, quinces, plums, cherries, almonds etc.) in the first three years, as this is when their shape and size is established.”
Here is more detail about pruning peach trees.
The pruning methods for peaches and nectarines are very much the same. Pruning a peach tree opens up the tree and allows sunlight to shine on the fruit. This is important for healthy fruit production. Also, if you’re going to spray your trees for diseases or pests, an open tree helps with equal coverage.
Peach twigs can be killed in one growing season by too much shading. If there’s too much shade, eventually no fruiting wood will be present in the lower part of the tree.
Imagine what your hand looks like when holding a giant peach. When pruning peach trees, the shape of your hand is very similar to the shape of the pruned peach tree. The centre is open with about 5 main branches angling upward at 45 degrees. Each one of these main branches holds another hand. This second hand is what carries and bears fruit.
Start by pruning off all the suckers, as well as dead, diseased, or unhealthy branches. Also pull off any old dried fruit.
You want to keep your tree short, so stand on the ground and crop the branches as high as you can reach with the clippers. If you have a tall limb where the only new growth is high above your head, cut off the limb. By keeping the tree low year after year, you’ll encourage the tree to send out side branches instead of tall branches that reach to the sky. It’s a lot easier to prune, pick and care for a low growing peach tree than a tall one.
Choose 4-6 branches that come off the trunk. These branches should be angling upward at about 45 degrees. If there are branches growing up the centre of the tree, prune these out.
Looking at an aerial view of the tree, the area where the fruit and leaves grow looks more like a doughnut than a ball.
Now you’re going to trim up the remaining limbs, starting with any branches that are growing horizontal and downward. They have a tendency to break and crack when the fruit gets heavy.
Cut off any vertical branches. The ideal angle of a branch is about 45 degrees angling upward.
Check the remaining branches to see if there are any branches that are crossing over each other. Pick the ones that support the general shape of the tree and prune out the others.
Crop off any branches that are shooting to the sky. Choose a height for your tree, and prune off any branches that go higher than that mark.
After pruning, paint the large cut branches with a tree seal. Ensure that your sprayer has good pressure and spray your deciduous fruit trees and the soil around them, with 1 cup of lime sulphur to 10 cups of water. Good orchard hygiene is also important so after finishing collect the prunings, and dispose of them by running your trimmings through a wood chipper. This makes good organic matter for your garden. Later in the spring, spread some compost or well-rotted manure, which will feed the tree. Apply the mulch in a thick layer under the canopy from the drip line to about 45 cms from the trunk of the tree. If you place mulch too close to the trunk, it will encourage rodents that may damage the bark.